Deprived Communities (Investment and Enterprise)

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 6th March 2003.

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Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour 2:30 pm, 6th March 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive what steps it is taking to sponsor investment and enterprise in deprived communities. (S1O-6573)

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

Working with the United Kingdom Government, we have developed a range of initiatives, including investment incentives, to support businesses and other enterprises operating in disadvantaged communities. We are also investing £2 million a year over the next three years to stimulate the social economy, which provides valuable public services, particularly in the most deprived communities.

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

How many of the 20,000 modern apprenticeships already created and the 5,000 additional modern apprenticeships that the minister announced this week are likely to assist those living in our most hard-pressed communities? How important are modern apprenticeships in sustaining the strongest labour market that the country has had in 25 years?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

The modern apprenticeships are crucial in that regard. Although I cannot give a direct answer in numbers, I note that local enterprise companies have responsibility for modern apprenticeships and that enterprise networks have a strategic objective of closing the gap in unemployment between the worst 10 per cent of areas and the Scottish average. Modern apprenticeships are important in that regard as well.

As Wendy Alexander said, 20,000 modern apprenticeships have already been created and 5,000 additional ones are to come. I made it clear this week that I would like there to be 30,000 modern apprenticeships, as they are central to the maintenance of the historic low levels of unemployment in the country.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

How much money have the Scottish Executive and its agencies invested in the Paisley Partnership Regeneration Company and how much of that money has been lost or misspent as a result of the mismanagement of the company by the board, which is mainly made up of Labour people?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

I understand that Renfrewshire Council is compiling a report on the operation of the company. That report will be submitted to Communities Scotland, which will take any necessary action.

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative

Would the minister concede that a much more convincing message would be sent to deprived communities if Scottish Enterprise were able to demonstrate that it had even a passing acquaintance with the condition of privation? Does he agree that, to achieve that, it would be sensible to direct a significant part of its budget to cut business rates and improve investment in transport infrastructure?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

The point, of course, is that around 50 per cent of Scottish Enterprise's budget is for investing in skills through modern apprenticeships, skillseekers and other training schemes. Investing in our people is the best way to give them the kind of future that we want. I understand that the Tories disagree with that. I think that that is unfortunate.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

Before we come to First Minister's questions, I invite members to welcome two distinguished visitors—Mr Lehohla and Mr Lekhanya, the Deputy Prime Minister and Opposition leader from Lesotho. [ Applause. ]